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Pro Bono is short for the Latin phrase which means “for the public good”.
In 2009, the DIFC Courts implemented the first Pro Bono Programme in the Middle East. This initiative allows individuals who cannot afford a lawyer the ability to seek free advice and representation from volunteer lawyers and is headed by the Pro Bono Programme Leader, Hayley Norton. The Programme is a public expression of the DIFC Courts’ mission to provide swift, transparent and accessible justice to DIFC Court users and to ensure that all parties are on equal footing in proceedings before the Courts.
A successful applicant (the eligibility criteria is explained below) may use a full range of legal services, from basic advice to full case management and representation in proceedings.
Pro Bono legal assistance is provided to individuals who certify that they do not have the financial means to pay for legal advice. The advice offered by volunteer lawyers focuses on issues that fall, or might fall, within the DIFC Courts’ jurisdiction. Legal assistance is not provided on matters which are criminal in nature or governed by personal laws, such as family or inheritance laws, as well as those originating from organisations or transactions outside the DIFC Courts’ jurisdiction.
Legal clinics - Individuals are provided with the opportunity to receive free legal advice from a volunteer lawyer either ‘face to face’ or ‘online’ about their current or potential claims.
Face to face: The clinics are held on a regular basis throughout the year and operate on a walk-in, first-come, first-served basis, with no prior appointments necessary. The clinics are held in at the DIFC Courts, Ground Level, Building 4, DIFC. The clinics are held every Wednesday, from 8.30 am – 12.00 pm (subject to Ramadan timings and UAE Government holidays).
Online: For individuals based outside of Dubai, the online clinics provide an alternative platform for receiving free legal advice.
Legal representation - If an individual is a party to a claim filed with the DIFC Courts and the assistance of a law firm is required to progress the claim, the Programme will seek to assign a volunteer law firm to such cases. The volunteer law firm and the individual are required to sign a letter of engagement which outlines the scope of services exchanged between the parties. Pro Bono engagements can range from basic advice to full case management and trial, as well as representation in proceedings.
Cost free trials - A costs-free trial allows potential Claimants the opportunity to bring a claim before the DIFC Courts without the fear or risk of paying the other side’s legal fees. The scheme requires that a litigant demonstrate to a Pro Bono Committee that there is a reasonable prospect that their case will succeed, and in the instance, they win the said claim, costs are paid by the opposing party into the Pro Bono Fund. For further information please refer to Rules 38.98 - 38.106 of the DIFC Courts. Applications are to be submitted by way of email to email@example.com by a volunteer law firm on behalf of its Pro Bono client.
Fee suspensions - A Pro Bono litigant can at any time apply to the Programme Leader to have the court fees suspended until the end of the case. The Programme Leader has absolute discretion in determining whether court fees are to be suspended and to what extent. Applications are to be submitted by email to firstname.lastname@example.org
The Pro Bono Programme accepts applications for: (i) volunteer lawyers; and (ii) volunteer law firms.
All applications are to be submitted here
The Pro Bono Committee acts as a liaison between the DIFC Courts and all users of the Pro Bono Programme to provide an efficient, accessible and transparent service to its users. The Committee comprises the Pro Bono Programme Leader and six volunteer lawyers. Further details of the Committee can be found here
For more information on the Pro Bono Programme, please call us on 04 427 3333 or e-mail email@example.com
Over 3,250 individuals helped
Over 40 volunteer lawyers
Over 55 volunteer law firms
(*Statistics as of 1 January 2023)